Dr. Manuel Delgado Gaona is a USAT Level II and Youth & Junior Coach, FMTri Level II Certified Coach, an ACSM exercise physiologist, and a physician specializing in anatomic pathology. He has coached age group and professional athletes at national and world levels, including those who have competed at ITU and Ironman 70.3 World Championships. Coach Manuel has been the doctor for “burned out” and chronically injured athletes, helping them get back into sport successfully and keeping them free of injuries for years. Two years ago he moved to Del Rio, Texas, to open an endurance coaching and exercise physiology studio and promoted triathlon and endurance sports among the south Texas population. His coaching philosophy is based on exercise efficiency, not only for professional athletes but for age group athletes as well.
Coach Chris Palmquist, who coached alongside him at three USAT Junior Skills camps, said of him, "he is as generous and kind as he is experienced. He will be great for his medical knowledge as well as his knowledge of physiology and his coaching experience."
Here's more about Coach Manuel:
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I'm married with three multisport kids, Maria Fernanda (17), Karina (15) and Manuel Jr (13), a labrador dog (Mack) and two adopted cats, “gato gordo” (fat cat) and Kitty.
My hometown is Torreón. Coahuila, Mexico, and we moved to Del Rio, Texas in 2015 to open a triathlon store and a coaching business.
As family we liked to watch live ITU World series races together. Maria Fernanda is a great supporter of Gwen Jorgensen and Javier Gomez and Karina supports the Brownlee brothers so you can imagine how it was for us during the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, the 2016 ITU Grand Final, and many other races where they competed. As multisport athletes that have worked elasticity, and with well-developed neuro-muscular coordination, speed, etc., they have been successful at tryouts for dance, swimming, track and field and football.
What is your own sporting background? What sports were you involved in growing up?
I began competing in swimming at four years old. Between the ages of 6 and 12 years, I was swimming 13-17 kilometers daily in two sessions in order to compete at national events in Mexico. I “burned out” physical and mentally, and while I didn´t quit swimming, I competed as an equestrian and in soccer for a few years in high school. During medical school, I played football and swam.
When and how did you first become involved in the sport of triathlon?
It was in the late 80´s and early 90´s in Torreón when first triathlons were organized among swimmers and former swimmers. At first, they were non-formal triathlons, meaning no swimming rules, no transition area rules, and no formal mount and dismount lines. It was more for fun and to follow the new US wave in sports.
In the late 90´s during my medical residency in Monterrey I took part in more organized triathlons- mainly sprints. At that time my basic athlete philosophy was “OK you are a strong swimmer, so the rest is going to be easier.” But oh my God!! I didn´t have formal cycling training so I didn´t have aerobic endurance or race strategy for cycling and the result was terrible bike legs in those races.
In early 2000 I returned to swimming events as master, but the feeling remaining from those firsts triathlons. Add in my experience as a “burned out” athlete, and now armed with knowledge of pathophysiology, I decided to study sport physiology to avoid repeating my “bad experiences” and prevent my children from suffering the same situations. (They began to do triathlons with me in 2008.)
In 2012 I become an ACSM sport physiologist and traveled to San Diego to the 2012 USAT Art and Science of Triathlon International Coaching Symposium where I meet USAT coaches that encouraged me to become an USAT Certified Coach.
In January 2013 I become an USAT Level I Certified coach, so my kids and I founded a Tri Club in Torreon. Within six months the team grew to 20 triathletes and we become one of the best tri clubs in our city. Two of these athletes came to me with serious physical conditions including one with a stress fracture and burn-out. I applied my medical and sport physiology background and nine months later one raced an Ironman 70.3 in France, both triathletes reached the elite status in Mexico that year, and they won 3th and 7th place at 2015 Capital of Texas Triathlon in Austin racing in Elite division. They were free of injuries during those 4 years.
In January 2014 I become USAT Youth and Junior Coach, this certification, allowed me to coach in a better way my kids and the other youth and junior of the team. In January 2015 I become USAT Level II Coach, this certification allowed me to increase my coaching knowledge and to help my athletes to reach higher levels of efficiency and keep them free of injuries.
What is your racing background in triathlon and swimming, biking, and/or running?
As swimmer I competed at national events in Mexico and as triathlete I did sprint, Olympic and Half distance triathlons. My next events will be 2018 Ironman 70.3 Monterrey and 2018 Ironman Cozumel
How has being a physician and exercise physiologist shaped the way that you coach?
The “burn out” condition that I had triggered my desire to be a coach and influenced the way I coach. When I´m doing my work as coach - planning or coaching at the pool or track or indoor bike - I´m thinking about how these workouts will affect the organ or target system in a medical or physiological way more so than a “time outcome on raceday” way.
When my athletes tell me about their sensations or physical effects, I tried to think first as physician or physiologist assembling sport-related syndromes, decide if it is appropriate to discard it, then I switch to “coach mode” and check if the physical goals are being accomplished.
What inspired you to move from medicine into the realm of coaching?
My work as physician was mainly diagnosing cancer, infections and other life-threatening conditions, so when I began to coach and saw the way I was touching athletes' lives, I experienced an awakening-like moment that motivated me to become a coach. I tell my kids all the time, “be wherever you want, but be the best doing what you like.” I planned a smooth transition that included moving to US where I knew I could reach the highest levels as a coach.
What drew you to coach with Team MPI?
I have been a USAT National Junior Skills Camp Coach for three years. In 2015 I met Coach Chris Palmquist and we coached together at the last three camps. This year she invited me to join Team MPI. I respect her very much as person and as coach.
What are some of the biggest training mistakes that you see athletes making?
Not hiring a certified coach!
You have coached a number of youth and adult athletes to top placings at national championships. What are some of the characteristics of these athletes that enabled them to excel at the sport?
All of them are motivated, coachable and committed athletes, more than physically gifted athletes.
You've coached many new athletes in the sport. What are the benefits to working with you as a coach right from the beginning?
I don´t believe in “one size fits all” workouts, one of the first benefits my brand new athletes have are customized workouts that are planned to cover their weakness, strengths, physical and mental condition.
How would you describe your coaching style?
My coaching style is focused on efficiency, because with efficiency an athlete will be less prone to injuries and will use less energy with better results. Through video analyses it is possible to identify poor technique that results in inefficient use of energy, less speed, and injuries and a larger way to increase the VO2max.
Corrective workouts (drills, plyometric, etc.) are the cornerstone of my coaching style not only for beginner athletes but professional athlete as well.
What are your thoughts on the role of fitness and exercise in health and medicine?
Using exercise as the main treatment for chronic diseases as diabetes/metabolic syndrome and hypertension, will allow patients to use less medication or nothing at all. Their life will switch and coaches will have long time athletes.
I think that exercise is underestimated in the medical environment, because although it is prescribed for these conditions, it is still optional for the patient to perform it and not a mandatory part of the treatment. Patients still trust more in medication than in exercise.
In your work with the Del Rio High School Tri Club you focused on promoting the sport within the Hispanic population. Do you see progress being made in diversifying the sport of triathlon? If not, what further efforts are needed?
Today the general population, and Hispanic population as well, think that triathlon is an elite sport, and that it requires a lot of money in order to begin. Coaches can promote triathlon by educating athletes that in the firsts years of practicing triathlon, it is not necessary to use expensive equipment -aluminum vs carbon- for example.
You've worked with both USAT and the Mexican Triathlon Federation. How does the sport compare in the two countries? (Asked in part in regard to ITU Age Group Worlds where Mexico is a formidable team.)
I´m not sure it is more mainstream in Mexico than in US, but there are some differences that allow Mexico to be a competitive country in triathlon.
a) Mexico is geographically smaller than US, so it is easier to run a Triathlon National Series with monthly races -February to November- in attractive and exotic places, so every month you can race against the gold standard in your age group. The podium in every race qualified an athlete for Age Group Worlds, so they have almost a year and can measure improvements every month.
b) Mexican Triathlon Federation is focused on the Age Group Worlds because it represents hundreds of athletes representing Mexico.
c) The Mexican Triathlon Federation´s Triathlon University is the best triathlon education & certification program in Latin America. It helps to increase the athletes competitive level each year, but they do not have pipeline like USAT´s and USAT´s Youth and Junior program. In part these are the reason for a big rotation of athletes as some of them are “burned out” after reaching continental junior level or championships instead of a slower pipeline to the ITU world series or Olympics.
d) I think the USAT´s pipeline is one the best contributions of USAT for US athletes.
Contact Coach Manuel at manuel@teamMPI.com.